An Alstom exec's experience compared with that of Meng Wanzhou

Arnaud Bertrand
Frenchman Frédéric Pierucci and Meng Wanzhou were accused of similar crimes by the United States. Their ultimate fates, however, were vastly different.
Arnaud Bertrand
An Alstom exec's experience compared with that of Meng Wanzhou

Arnaud Bertrand

Many people in China know about the story of Frédéric Pierucci, a top executive at leading French company Alstom. In 2013 Pierucci was arrested out of the blue during a trip to the US, accused of having violated US extraterritorial laws on a contract Alstom made in Indonesia ten years previously.

He was first asked to become an FBI informant against his company and when he refused he was thrown into prison.

He was then used by the US as an economic hostage, and released only when a deal had been reached whereby American company GE would purchase large divisions of Alstom. In fact, in an obvious sign that his prison stay and the purchase of Alstom by GE were related, Pierucci was released the same week as the purchase.

His story is eerily similar to what happened to Meng Wanzhou. So much so that Pierucci's book "The American Trap" is famously popular inside Huawei: It has been read by Ren Zhengfei, the company founder, and the book has been widely distributed among employees of the company.

Obviously, Pierucci's unfortunate experience helped many Huawei employees understand what the Americans' real intentions were.

An Alstom exec's experience compared with that of Meng Wanzhou

Frenchman Frédéric Pierucci's book "The American Trap"

Glaring difference

There is of course one glaring difference between the both cases, a difference that pains me deeply as a French patriot.

When China and Huawei fought tooth and nail to get Meng back and ultimately succeeded, Pierucci was all but abandoned to his unfortunate fate.

Bewilderingly, Alstom even went as far as firing Pierucci while he was detained in the US.

As Pierucci writes in the book, he was left rotting in a US prison and fired because he wasn't at work anymore, as if he had any choice in the matter.

His dismissal also meant he didn't benefit from their judicial assistance anymore and had to pay extortionate legal fees from his own pocket.

One can only presume why Alstom acted that way.

An Alstom exec's experience compared with that of Meng Wanzhou

Meng Wanzhou waves to a cheering crowd as she steps out of a charter plane at Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, on September 25.

My supposition is that they were terrified of the big bad American bully.

Inside Alstom what the US did to one of their executives must have had a chilling effect.

The other executives were probably thinking "I might be next" so they did all they could to isolate themselves from Pierucci and appease the US.

In this case, the US intimidation tactics worked.

As a French patriot I can only be deeply troubled by what is happening to my country and also deeply admire what China has done for Meng.

Looking back, I am certain Frédéric Pierucci would have much preferred to be a Chinese citizen during his ordeal!

Meng's case exposed the US's tactics of holding economic hostages and demonstrated that it is possible to fight back and win. The US attempted to intimidate Huawei into submission like it did with Alstom, though this time around they only succeeded in strengthening the resolve of the Chinese people and the government.

The author is an entrepreneur who's lived in China for seven years.

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